Made the same year as Five Dolls for an August Moon and Hatchet for a Honeymoon, Mario Bava's lone western, Roy Colt and Winchester Jack, could be seen as a low, low budget rip-off of J. Lee Thompson's bloated and hugely expensive hunt-for-the-gold 1969 western/caper film MacKenna's Gold (itself basically a reworking of Stanley Kramer's bloated, hugely expensive and monstrously long 1963 It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World), since Roy Colt distills Mackenna's characters down to four double-crossing rogues: two gunslingers named Roy Colt and Winchester Jack, a Russian preacher, and an Indian babe who says little but always sticks with the man with the most power. There's also the gold, which is unearthed at the end via a character's memory, sunlight, and the repositioning of oddball objects.
Then again, if taken as an example of the buddy genre – two goofballs with a love/hate relationship traveling together through various misadventures and saving each other from mortal danger – Roy Colt can also be lumped together with two other and more prominent buddy films that were part of a new western sub-genre in 1970, the comedy western.
Alongside My Name is Trinity / Lo chiamavano Trinità, which spawned a huge wave of Terence Hill-Bud Spencer films, there's also Sergio Corbucci's hugely entertaining Companeros / Vamos a matar, companeros, which beautifully paired Franco Nero and Tomas Milian as two selfish wankers constantly trying outwit the other when gold comes into play. Then again, there's the lure of gold that figures in Sergio Leone's Man with No Name epics, and culminated in the buddy western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, with Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach re-allying whenever it suited their needs in spite of wanting the gold all for themselves, while a preacher-like character played by Lee Van Cleef similarly threatens or saves their hides.
Wallach was the only comedy relief rube in Leone's otherwise mean little epic, whereas nothing in Roy Colt is taken seriously. Whether initially conceived as a comedy western - Anchor Bay 's DVD sadly lacks any contextual notes or a commentary track – or reworked by Bava after playing with broad comedy in his multilingual Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Girls diptych in 1966, Roy Colt is pure cartoon, and most oddly, sometimes feels like a precursor to Sam Raimi's animated directorial style.
The visuals and editing are less frenetic, but Bava clearly had fun staging some brilliant little visual jokes and creating some clever subtext whenever he wasn't forced to stage one of many shootouts that pad the film to its brief 85 mins. (which actually feels painfully longer).
A good example of Bava's fine touches include Roy Colt's oration to townspeople for support, which is captured in a slow tracking shot, and ends on an empty bar when Roy turns around and realizes everyone's snuck out ever so quietly; a vibrating bed knob, seen during a sex scene, initially infers more onscreen whoopee, but is revealed as coming from the preacher's bad shakes from a nasty cold; and a cleverly directed scene in which the preacher and Winchester Jack draw straws from the unhappy Indian babe, cheating us into believing she's to be a shared sexual prize, but is merely there as a neutral aide while the two unfaithful men decide who leads the convoy towards the buried gold.
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Like Four Times That Night, Roy Colt strangely contains an intermission break (!), and the film's narrative stops dead for a pointless, indulgent, messy whorehouse free-for-all that does nothing for any of the characters. Bava's lighting for that sequence is even sub-par, and the sets are ready-made for a tear-down. (The only clever joke is a silhouetted stripper dance that's revealed, after a crash-through, to be an old guy wearing the cutout of a naked woman's torso on his back, flailing his arms like a marionette.)
Bava also tries to cheat the budget by compacting his elements into singular shots, as when most of the cast is seen riding horseback and fill the screen to mimic a large, forceful posse. That one shot is all that's used to infer the beginning of the group's journey, yet its simplicity tells us all we need to know as to who goes from point A to B, with the actor's facial gestures conveying who suspects whom of being a scoundrel.
Bava similarly exploits simple facial expressions for some funny payoffs, as when the preacher appears at the tail-end of a panning shot, with Bava using a fish-eye lens. With his minions waiting impatiently, the preacher tells them to stop pestering, and though the next shot shows him fastening up his fly, the actor's strangely self-serving glee makes us wonder if he was merely watering a cacti, or spanking his monkey.
The main problem with Roy Colt is it's completely cartoonish, and there's not enough character material to keep anyone interesting after the whorehouse brawl. The finale is quick and cheap, and even Bava's penchant for using painted mattes and stills from National Geographic magazines gets a bit ridiculous when he clutters some shots of a beach location with deep red Arizona mountain peaks that have no geologic relations to the off-white gravel of coastal Italy.
A tragic waste is Marilu Tolo as the Indian babe, who really does nothing except sleep (a lot) with Winchester Jack, and maintains a payment system for her services by scratching marks on her wooden banana. Teodoro Corrà, who also appeared in Bava's Five Dolls for an August Moon, has fun chewing up scenery as the preacher, but aside from his shaking bed routine and his dynamite fixation (which keeps him warm), he's literally a cardboard character not dissimilar from the villains that peppered AIP's Beach films.
Unlike the amusing and more restrained humour in Bava's Four Times sex comedy, one gets a sense the facile humour from his Goldfoot dud bled too deep in this weak directorial outing; the film's closing shot, for example has the dueling legs of Roy Colt and Winchester Jack repeatedly kicking up from below the frame before the fadeout.
Anchor Bay's DVD is a bare bones release, but improves upon the prior Image DVD with a cleaner transfer, although the mono mix is less forceful (which isn't a bad thing, as Piero Umiliani's score is completely unsuitable. A fusion of Herb Alpert and Italian lounge music, Umiliani plays every element as farce, and reuses the same theme ad nauseum, with little variation). The only extras on the Image disc were some Bava trailers (none apparently were found for Roy Colt), and the same director text bio written by Tim Lucas that was used on other Bava DVDs from Image, so there's no reason to hold onto the older disc.
Brett Halsey would appear two years later in Bava's Four Times as a charismatic, grinning masher, while his co-star, Charles Southwood, made a few more films before disappearing from films. Marilù Tolo later appeared in Edward Dmytryk's erotic version of Bluebeard (1972), and more notably in the episode “Eyewitness” of Dario Argento's 4-part TV series Door Into Darkess / Porta sul buio, and Argento's underrated political satire Five Days of Milan / Le Cinque giornate (both 1973).
Roy Colt and Winchester Jack is available as part of the Mario Bava Collection Vol. 2 from Anchor Bay/Starz Home Entertainment, which includes Bay of Blood / Reazione a catena , Baron Blood / Gli Orrori del castello di Norimberga, Five Dolls for an August Moon / 5 bambole per la luna d'agosto , Four Times That Night / Quante volte... quella notte, Kidnapped + Rabid Dogs / Cani arrabbiati, Lisa and the Devil + The House of Exorcism / La Casa dell'esorcismo, and Roy Colt and Winchester Jack / Roy Colt e Winchester Jack.
© 2007 Mark R. Hasan